Hilo Senior Net promotes joy of surfing to a different generation

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Date: Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Contact: Lucy Maloney, (808) 974-7603

For Immediate Release


Gladys Nakamura, President of the Kea`au Senior Citizens Club on the "stealth computer" at the Kea`au Senior Center

Big Island residents are discovering that one is never too old to take up surfing. At least not when it comes to the Internet.

The Hilo Senior Net Learning Center at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo, which celebrates its seventh anniversary in August, has taught more than 400 seniors computer courses ranging from basic computer introduction to making greeting cards to the Internet and Email since it was founded in August of 1995.
The national organization, established in 1988, is active on university campuses throughout the country. Participants must be over 50 to sign up for courses, and must pay a small fee to the national organization to become a member. The Hilo Senior Net, part of the Senior Program run by the College of Continuing Education and Community Service (CCECS) program, currently has more than 200 members, who not only take classes, but teach them.

"We help seniors overcome their computer-phobia by demonstrating how fun and easy it can be to learn," said Lucy Maloney, director of the Hilo Senior Net Learning Center. "But we still have a long way to go. Only 13 percent of those over 65 have Internet access, and those over 50 account for more than half the non-online population."

Each month, the Center offers three basic courses: Introduction to the Computer; Basic Word Processing; and Internet & Email. The courses consist of three two-hour sessions, with enrollment limited to a maximum of 10 students. In addition to the basic courses, classes are offered each month on one or more of the following: Database; Spreadsheet; Scanning and Digital Imaging; and How to Make Your Own Greeting Cards. The cost for each course is $21, plus a one-time charge of $10 for the spiral-bound workbook that covers the basic courses as well as Database and Spreadsheet.

"The most rewarding aspect of the program is to see the members gain confidence as they overcome their initial fear and find themselves doing things they never thought possible," Maloney said. "Once they discover how fun and easy it can be, they get hooked and want to take more classes."

Maloney expects interest to increase following the recent donation of a new "Generations Online" computer to the Kea`au Senior Center. The computer, given to the national Senior Net program by IBM, is a "stealth black" desktop model with a tower, complete with a 1.6 GHz Pentium 4 chip, dual DVD/CD Rom drive, and bundled with the new Microsoft XP operating system and Microsoft Works Suite 2002. "Hopefully, this will give the seniors at Kea`au a taste of how much fun computers and the Internet can be," said Maloney. "Perhaps that will encourage them to come and take classes with us in Hilo."

Caroline Johnson, who took the basic computer class two years ago at the age of 102, is the oldest student the program has ever had. Johnson admits she had some apprehension about taking the class, but her concerns had nothing to do with the challenge of mastering a computer. "I thought there would be a lot of younger people taking this course who would wonder what I was doing there," Johnson said. "But I made up my mind that I was going to take this course, and you don't reach my age without being a little stubborn."

Johnson, who views learning as a life-long experience, welcomed the challenge to learn something new and unfamiliar. She was surprised to discover how easy and fun it was, but believes her learning environment had something to do with that.


"The great thing about the Senior Net Program is that you get to learn from fellow seniors and graduates who go out of their way to help you," Johnson said. "It was really a wonderful class." Johnson is considering taking additional classes. But regardless of her decision, she believes seniors should always strive to keep learning.

"The world is constantly changing, and unless you keep pace with those changes, you'll get left behind. So it's no longer an option. It's a necessity." Johnson said. "I just hope my experience will show that learning can be fun, and encourage others to do likewise."

For more information, contact the Hilo Senior Net Learning Center at 974-7603.


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